Introducing e-learning: what’s your starting point?

September 5, 2011 by Wendy Kay

Introducing e-learning effectively into your organisation means that you need to understand where you’re starting from.

This post talks about how to review the current state of your organisation, how to carry out a SWOT analysis, the type of data that you might need to gather and who will be impacted by your project and what you might need to consider in order to engage them.

The Current State

In any model of change the first section is always understanding the current state.  This is about identifying and prioritising the gaps in the being, knowing and doing.

In order to identify the gaps you need to review where your organisation is now in terms of your project, so that you can map it out against your vision, strategy, objectives and plans.

Where are you now?

A popular business model to help you structure your thinking around this is a SWOT.  Here is part of a basic SWOT analysis for any e-learning project.

Strengths

  1. All staff have their own PC
  2. CEO is very supportive and has agreed to lead the project
  3. We have a dedicated internal project manager

Weaknesses

  1. The sound cards in the PCs are not activated
  2. The IT department do not support the project
  3. No other dedicated resources available at this time

Opportunities

  1. We need to achieve Investors in People within 12 months
  2. Our efficiency agenda is driving down costs in all areas
  3. There is a high profile Green campaign aimed at reducing car travel

Threats

  1. Cost-cutting has reduced staff morale and increased resistance to change
  2. Managers have expressed concerned about letting staff have time at their desk to complete learning
  3. Previous e-learning attempt was low quality and little take-up

Your own SWOT Analysis

Think about your project and complete your own SWOT analysis.  Capture your thoughts be honest as this is only for your personal use and it is useful to know all of the issues you might face to avoid nasty surprises.

Once you have your thoughts try to think of ways of:

  • Using your strengths
  • Exploiting your opportunities
  • Overcoming your weaknesses
  • Minimising your threats

Gathering Information

You may have your own views but what other issues are likely to be faced in your organisation by your customers?  There may be practical problems such as:

  • Access to technology
  • Availability of quiet space for studying
  • Use of headphones for listening to videos etc.

And there may be useful feedback to help guide your early thinking such as:

  • What type of courses do people want to access
  • What time are they likely to use the system
  • Where are they most likely to study

You may need to review qualitative and quantitive data about your organisation in order to build up an accurate picture.  Examples might include:

Qualitative

  • Evaluation comments about previous e-learning
  • Feedback about other forms of training
  • Focus group feedback on proposals

Quantitative

  • No of people with experience of e-learning
  • No of people with access to a PC
  • No of people with soundcards
  • No of people with access to Flash
  • Staff profile (age, gender etc)

Try to seek out as much data as you can in order to inform your thinking and anticipate issues.

The Current State – People

Within any organisation there are different types of people that you will need to engage with to make your project successful. Think about the categories of people you will work with. Here are some of our thoughts. Click on each heading:

Senior Management

Need to ensure buy-in so that they encourage use of the system and supply resources to support the project. Try to engage them as sponsors. Build specific materials for them as they are one of the groups least likely to want to take time out of the office for development. Link to Management Development.

Line Managers

Crucial to success in terms of encouraging use and building into development plans for staff. Can block use in worst case scenarios. Need to have clear guidelines on best use and continually monitor/gather feedback on impact of learning.

Trade Union Representatives

May see this as a threat  cheap training. Involve in project team. Include TU information in induction course. Train to author re: their own materials can go online to encourage greater access for people.

People with Disabilities or from Ethnic Backgrounds

May be concerned about accessibility.  Involve in focus groups to gain feedback. Design modules with access in mind.  Produce guidelines for authors.  Quality control each course against guidelines.  Ensure representatives on user group.

People who do not use PCs in their jobs

May be concerned about access to PCs and ability to use.  Involve in focus groups to gain feedback.  Provide spare PCs in quiet areas.  Ensure facilitators on hand to train in the system e.g. drop in mornings etc.  Look into providing system via other handheld technology used by field workers.

Champions and Saboteurs

As well as specific categories of people, there are those with influence who are likely to support you and the changes you are looking to implement and those who might not.  As part of your assessment, you need to identify different ways to engage with them.  Think about who fits into these categories and what you can do to manage them.

Drivers – they help and support you and/or your project

What to do with them?

  • Engage early
  • Get them as part of Project Team
  • Appoint as sponsors, champions etc.
  • Give them a role promoting the system Engage early

Demons – they undermine you and/or your project

What to do with them?

  • Engage early
  • Identify causes/barriers/concerns
  • Respond to concerns
  • Minimise any potential damage

Team colleagues

Don’t ignore people in the training and development function either.  Some trainers may feel threatened by the introduction of e-learning because they see it as a way of reducing their jobs and others may disagree with this method of learning compared with traditional face-to-face delivery.

Involve them early on, explain the blended learning concept, get their views on the courses, train those with the aptitude to become authors, get them to use the system for pre and post learning for their courses etc.

Your learners

Finally there is your customer base those people who will be using the e-learning system.  What is the likely reaction from them?

In a previous post I looked at the impact of change on people. Research shows us that people adapt to change at different rates.  You will probably find that 50% of people will adopt the new e-learning system quite quickly with a further 34% being ‘late’ adopters. You are likely to find that a small percentage will either take much longer to adopt or may even try to avoid it all together.

The question for you is what energy do you plan to spend on this group trying to convert them?  Our advice  for the maximum return on your investment – you would be better to focus on the remaining 84%!

The Current State Your Team

As well as looking at the whole organisation you need to review your project team.  You may be fortunate to have a dedicated team to helping you implement e-learning or, as in the majority of cases, you will have access to the time of other resources who already have dedicated jobs.  You will need to create a ‘virtual’ team from a disparate group of people.

What sort of people do you have in your team? Think about these questions:

  1. What is their level of enthusiasm for the project?
  2. Were they press-ganged or did they volunteer?
  3. What skills do they bring to the team?
  4. What attributes do they bring to the team?
  5. Have you worked together before?
  6. If not, what is their track record on projects? Ask around…
  7. What is their preferred style of working?
  8. How do they like their work to be monitored?
  9. What relationship do they have with the other team members?

Armed with the above information you can decide what gaps you have i.e. what training you need for your team, who to allocate tasks to and how to manage them for the best performance.

And don’t forget YOU!  You may wish to gain new knowledge or develop some new skills as part of this project.

You might find it useful to get your team together and work through the series of courses like this that are aimed at supporting customers.

Being in the Know

Having completed your SWOT analysis, gathered data and completed your review, you can now map out any gaps that exist between what you currently have and what you are aiming to achieve.

And how do you fill the gaps?

It might be as simple as ensuring that people have the right information about the project or it might mean that you need to change the way you roll out your IT services to staff to ensure that they can fully access the services that you intend to provide.

Whatever the answers you have the information that will enable you to make the best decisions.

Handy tip: Make sure you check out the courses and resources available as part of your Learning Pool subscription first there may be some things ready and waiting to fill your gaps!

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